I have been reading some reports recently of scientists who have found “Poo Bacteria” on ice at a number of major fast food Restaurants in the UK. Ice was sampled at 10 random branches each of McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King across the country to test for indications that they were contaminated by bacteria. The investigation was carried out following the results of BBC One’s Watchdog investigation earlier in the year, which found “significant levels” of faecal bacteria on ice samples in three major coffee chains.

DEFRA – the government department that sets water standards in the UK – advises the bacteria should not be present in water used for human consumption. The acceptable level for this type of bacteria in drinking water is zero. The coliforms were found at 3/10 branches of McDonald’s, 6/10 samples at Burger King and 7/10 samples at KFC. Four of the samples taken at Burger King and five at KFC were described as having “significant” levels. Watchdog consulted with Tony Lewis – Head of Policy and Education at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health – on the findings. On the programme, Tony said: “It’s extremely worrying. When we’re finding the sorts of numbers we’re finding here, you have to look at the people making the ice, handling the ice, which they then transfer into customers’ drinks. “And then you also have to look at hygiene failure with potentially the machines themselves: are they being kept clean?”

A KFC spokesperson said: “We are shocked and extremely disappointed by these results. We have strict procedures for the management and handling of ice, including daily and weekly inspections and cleaning of the ice machine and storage holds, as well as the routine testing of ice quality across our business. We immediately shut down the ice machines in the restaurants affected to conduct a thorough clean and inspection, and reinforced the importance of adhering to our strict procedures to all employees. The restaurants all have an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) hygiene rating of four or five out of five, and we are awaiting the results of independent testing of the ice that will confirm they are back up to the standards we expect. To reassure customers we have also inspected and cleaned the ice machines in all other restaurants across the UK.”

A spokesperson for McDonald’s said: “We have robust procedures in place with regard to the production, storage and handling of ice in our UK restaurants. Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and people and we will continue to review our procedures and training, working closely with our restaurant teams to ensure those procedures are adhered to at all times. Hygiene and safety practices are of the utmost importance to us and we’re proud that 99% of our restaurants have an independent hygiene rating of either good or very good. Like many UK food retailers, our ice is made by freezing drinking water using commercial ice machines. As the investigation highlights, there are no specific ice production standards in place, only those relating to unfrozen drinking water. We would therefore welcome the introduction of an agreed standard and would be happy to work with relevant industry bodies.”

A Burger King spokesperson said: “Cleanliness and hygiene are a top priority for the Burger King® brand. The strict procedures we have in place are designed to ensure all Guests have a positive experience each time they visit our restaurants. We are proactively working with our franchisees in the U.K. to reinforce these procedures. This report is an opportunity for us to emphasise our training procedures and ensure all operations and safety standards are upheld in all Burger King® restaurants.”1

Water — especially hard water — naturally has many different minerals and microscopic sediment in it. If left unfiltered, these minerals can build up in your machine. Eventually, it becomes clear to the naked eye just what is in your water. Dirt and rust are two culprits that can clog up your machine over time. Lime scale and mold can also build up and make it difficult for your machine to produce ice.

If left unclean, all of this buildup can lead to unnecessary wear on your ice maker. There may be some clear indicators that your ice maker needs a clean. The ice cubes the machine produces may start to become smaller. The ice may start to look cloudy, feel soft, or have a strange taste.

When you start to notice the quality of your ice changing, this is an indication that it is time to clean your machine. If you use a filter for your ice maker, a good rule of thumb is to follow your filter changes and clean your machine when you change the filter, approximately every three to six months.

Remember — You know that your ice maker needs cleaning if the ice it produces has changed in size, look, or even taste. I recommend cleaning your machine every three to six months for optimal performance. You should consult your owner’s manual before cleaning, especially for machines with automatic cleaners. For manual machines, the steps listed below should help you get off to a good start on keeping your machine clean.2

So this got me to thinking about the bugs and beasties that could turn up in my beloved Ice and also, how to keep my Ice machine clean and in tip top condition.

The top 3 biggest problems that can be found in Ice.

  1. Mould – Mould is found far too often on the door seals, door lips and exposed parts of Ice Machines in both pubs and restaurants. The very cold temperatures can make the growth and spread of mould slow down but every time the door is opened (or in some cases left open for extended periods of time) warm air can get in and cause condensation which will encourage mould growth. It can be even worse if you regularly switch your ice machine off overnight or for extended periods.
  2. Bacteria – E. Coli, Salmonella, Listeria and Norovirus are just a few of the harmful germs and bacteria that can grow and become established in unclean ice machines. All of these are harmful to health and can even cause death in the more vulnerable. Over time if a bacterial contamination is not dealt with it can form an organic residue secreted by the germs which protects them from damage and allows further growth – and is hard to shift when established. Whatever tools you use to dispense ice, be it a glass, metal scoop or tongs will be contaminated with whatever is on your hands, and if you drop them back into your ice machine or ice bucket then each ice cube will get a nice coating of contamination.We all know we are in a rush to get that icy goodness but do you remember to wash your hands before each time?  No, which is why it’s even more important to wash them at important times, such as after going to the toilet, stroking an animal or handling raw meat.
  3. Limescale – If you do not have a water softener or water filtration system then you could get a build up of limescale within the machine. Remove the limescale with a food safe descaling product during your regular clean as bacteria & germs find hard water scales the perfect place to grow.

Top tips for a clean machine:

  • Switch the machine off.
  • Remove and throw away any Ice already in the machine (just let it melt in the sink, it wont take long).
  • Remove and clean the filters with a soft brush.
  • Spray the inside of the machine with a food safe sanitising spray (like this one from Amazon) and leave it for the required amount of time to work.
  • Wipe the internal surfaces, paying special attention to any lips, ledges and seals.
  • Clean the water baths, ice baths, cube crushers and other mechanical components.
  • Bring the machine back into service but make sure you dispose of the first batch of ice made after cleaning to ensure no chemical residue is left behind.

Other Cleaning

Ice buckets, scoops and tongs should all be cleaned properly in the same way you would clean the utensils used in your kitchen, after all ice is classed as a food.3

Leave a reply